30 August 2023

How automation improves customer centricity - it’s not all about bots! - guest blog by Jonas Berggren

It's not all about bots

In my recent article on customer centricity, I explored some of the most important reasons why many customer experience (CX) strategies don’t result in customer satisfaction. Even large companies often fail to deliver much customer satisfaction. I identified seven key reasons why companies are failing to deliver on CX, and one of them was automation.

Brands want to get closer to their customers, so why does it often feel that their automation strategy pushes the customer away?

Our traditional approach to designing customer service processes has been centered on the contact center. The post-purchase call for help or information was the focus, but this has changed. Customers today are interested in a long-term relationship with the brands they love, so how does this change the opportunity for automation?

To start with, this means we need to revise our traditional view of the customer journey. Automation has often been used to manage simple customer interactions, such as answering common questions, but this can come across as deflection - preventing the customer from accessing a human. What really needs to be considered is where a human or digital worker can add the most value to the modern customer journey and how they work together.

When you consider automation in this way - playing to its strength rather than as a replacement for a human - it is easy to think of some processes that work very well:

  • Onboarding: signing up for a product or service usually involves a straightforward step-by-step onboarding process that can normally be handled very easily by an automated process.


  • Arranging a callback: instead of not offering any out-of-hours support at all, if a bot answers these inquiries and captures information about the customer question and then arranges for a human to call the next day, then the out-of-hours support is far more useful - and makes the experience the following day much easier as the information is already captured.


  • Gathering information: in situations where the interaction is mainly gathering information, such as an insurance claim, it should also be possible to entirely automate the process.

These examples may sound obvious, but there are many flawed chatbot and automation implementations where the impression is given that the bot can answer any question. In some cases, the bot is even presented as if it is a human customer adviser. Defining which tasks are best for a bot and which are best for a human allows the customer journey to be defined more accurately.

As designers of CX processes, we need to step back and consider where automation helps the customer interact with the brand and where it can detract. As John Sills wrote in his book ‘The Human Experience’: “Perhaps the biggest challenge to creating an accessible experience is the presumption that everything will work just fine. Often companies map the perfect customer journey, the one where everything goes right, and the process just works; where the chatbot understands or the customer has one of the Frequently Asked Questions. Yet often, the customer needs to reply to that email, make that call, or speak to the CEO because something has gone wrong that’s causing them stress or worry.”

Automation can help to improve the brand-to-customer experience by removing the need to manage boring and repetitive processes, but there are emerging opportunities that go beyond our traditional experience of chatbots.

ChatGPT from OpenAI is a good example. This bot is all over the news because it demonstrates that if you give the bot enough information - such as all of Wikipedia - it can offer credible answers to very general questions. It’s not going to create a fantastic new song like Gravity by John Mayer, but it can very quickly sift data and find answers. This could lead to many more open conversations between customers and bots in the future.

IKEA has shown that if you give a bot enough background data on the kind of questions that customers are likely to ask, then an automated service can be helpful. Nobody is going to ask an IKEA assistant about anything other than IKEA furniture, so if it has details of all products, then it can be extremely useful within that context.

There are also several examples of companies using automated processes to mine customer data for insights. This can often be an insight that is used to help avoid losing a customer - such as a customer paying for a subscription service - but a few smart companies are also using the data they have to bond with their customers.

Look at how Spotify creates its end-of-year ‘Wrapped’ summary of what users have listened to. It’s an automated process that creates an incredible bond - users love sharing the information sent in their ‘Wrapped’ summary. The audiobook service Audible now posts a similar end-of-year summary to their users, and the most popular global provider of drones, DJI, sends their users an annual ‘Fly Report’ showing details of hours flown and distance covered, etc.

Smart digital workers can take on back-office roles. Banks can use them to process mortgage documentation or other documents where there is a clear definition of what is needed and a step-by-step process. When users sell used clothes on Vinted they don’t need to visit a post office to buy stamps. The system knows if a customer will collect, will use a collection locker, or will create the postage documents automatically.

Automating the customer experience now goes far beyond chatbots alone. There are many opportunities to improve customer satisfaction using different automation forms. Bots are improving rapidly and are a critical element of automation, but as I have outlined in this article, the real question is how you can blend digital with the human experience.

Understanding where digital workers can add value and where a human is required - is the key to an improved future with more automation. Smart brands will use both and will understand the strengths that each can offer.

In my upcoming articles on customer centricity, I'll explore how automation can be used to improve CX processes. In the meantime, share your examples of successful implementations of automation in CX by leaving a comment below

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Written by Jonas Berggren, Head Of Business Development NE

Jonas Berggren joined Transcom in 2020 as Head Of Business Development Northern Europe. Prior to this, Jonas was the co-founder and partner of Feedback Lab by Differ. Earlier in his career, Jonas held the position of CEO at Teleperformance Nordic.

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